Holding your Baby in the Pool

mother and baby in the poolWhen introducing babies to the swimming pool, they obviously require full support and assistance from an adult to help them become comfortable with the water and this new environment. A variety of different “holds” and support postures are suitable for babies as they increase in age, ability, and their level of comfort in the pool. You might like to practice these positions with your baby outside the pool, so you feel confident doing them when in the water.


Age and Ability: Infants from 0-12 months

The Hold: As you would cradle a baby, supporting the head with parents arm. You can also adopt this in a bath with the baby lying on the their back on the parents extended legs or arms.

Advantages: Keeps them in good position for eye contact, and conversation, also lets them know that the situation is safe and secure.

Important: Infants have no ability to hold their head up; this requires support.

Protective Hold

Age and Ability: Infants two months or more who have established head control.

The Hold: Held under the chest with one hand, and supporting the chin with your thumb. The other hand will support the bottom of the torso at the bottom.


  • Useful for passing them from person to person.
  • Encourages infants and toddlers to feel the buoyancy of the water.
  • Useful in activities where the infant needs to be held upright, and facing away from the parent.
  • It is a secure hold for exploring the pool, playing games and songs that involving swinging infants through the water.

Important: To ensure an infant is buoyant in this hold, it is important that the infant’s bottom rests on the parent’s hand and that the parent does not push upwards. The hand that is placed on the chest is the more active hand in balancing, supporting and guiding movements of the infant.

Carry Hold

Age and Ability: Infants who have developed head control, but unable to sit.

The Hold: The infant is seated with legs apart and the inside arm is over the parent’s shoulder. The parent’s right arm will support from underneath at the lower back, and the left arm will support the infant’s back and shoulder near the armpit, spread your fingers of the left hand to support the neck and shoulders. The infant’s head should be at the same level as the parents.

Advantages: Good for entry into the water, also permits the parent to walk around the pool with the infant submerged up to the chin. Infant will feel their buoyancy. Heads being at the same level will enable introducing blowing bubbles by the parent.

Important: Infant’s head should be at the same level as the parent’s; the infant will feel secure, you can talk, make eye contact, sing and play games.

Hip Hold

Age and Ability: 6-12 months, and beyond. Infants with good postural control through the torso, and who can nearly sit, or can sit.

The Hold: This is an extension from the Carry Hold. The infant is placed on the parent’s hip and is supported from underneath with one hand, with the other hand coming around and supporting the infant’s back while holding them at the waist.

Advantages: The infant will feel safe and secure, which will lead into other holds.

Important: Moving from one hold into another, make sure you talk to your child and let them know what is happening, as children will often respond to cues. With children that aren’t relaxed in these movements, do not force them; they will need just a little more time and a reassuring voice from their parents.

Extended Hold

Age and Ability: 0-12 months.

The Hold (0-6 months): With your Infant facing you, the infant’s head should be cradled between the shoulders, place your hands under the infant’s armpits, thumb at the front and your fingers should support the back of the head and the chin.

The Hold: (6-12 months): Same as Newborns, but have your fingers splayed out at the back to support their position.

Advantages: More freedom in the water, they feel more buoyancy. The face-to-face position gives the infant a sense of reassurance, they can see the parent, and this enables the parent to engage communication, and encouraging smiles.

Important: Should only be used when infants are relaxed and confident being moved away from parents.

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